The Golden Rule Revisited
“Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
The ‘Golden Rule’, based on a verse in Matthew 7:12 of the Bible, says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
But too often, we tend to modify the Golden Rule to things like:
- Treat others (who look, act and sound like you) the way you want to be treated.
Treat others (who deserve to be treated with kindness or courtesy, but not the ones who don’t deserve it) like you want to be treated.
Treat others (who don’t believe in God like you do) with no regard for their truth.
Treat others (who follow different politics than you) like they are imbeciles and are worthy only of ridicule and insult.
Treat others (who express their love differently than your beliefs or traditions dictate) as unwelcome and unacceptable.
Treat others (who speak in other languages, or with accents, or have different colors of skin) as 'less than'.
Treat others (who haven’t had the same upbringing, education, and financial opportunity as you had) with a 'better than' or judgmental attitude.
Treat others (who cut you off in traffic) as unworthy of pardon.
Treat others (who have only learned to lash out or to take from life) as undeserving of any effort to understand their behavior.
Treat others by applying one negative story to an entire group, and therefore, condemning the entire group.
How can anyone or situation change for the better if others never see mercy or forgiveness or grace from us who claim to know the Source of mercy, forgiveness, and grace? What if when others look at us, they only see a reflection of their own behavior? What if when others encounter us, they only feel condemnation and nonacceptance?
If we believe the principle of the Golden Rule, when we treat others with disrespect, we are inviting them to treat us the same way. Let’s return to the high road when it comes to treating others respectfully, and especially others who behave badly. It takes no effort to be nice to people who are nice to us. It takes grace and forgiveness to be civil to people who have not treated us in like manner.
Somebody has to break the cycle of anger, hate, and rudeness. Somebody has to show others a better way, a way where words and actions are civil and respectful, no matter our differences. And if our leaders aren't willing to do that, we must hold them accountable and expect and demand more from them. Slinging insults are the least effective means of changing people's minds or behaviors. Scorn burns bridges rather than builds them.
Jesus also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44). That entire chapter is Jesus holding us to a higher standard than even the law required. Do we just skim over those words and assume they do not apply to us? Lord, help us.
We have to be better. We have to do better. The ‘others’ in the Golden Rule is everybody, not just the ones who look, sound, act, and vote like us.
Donna Van Cleve
Faith, Social Issues
Mixed Media Art by Vanessa Roeder, 2020
Concept by D. Van Cleve; Photo by Vanessa Roeder